Brian Billick, the ex-Ravens coach who prevailed in Super Bowl XXXV and is now a Fox Sports analyst, breaks down Sunday night’s matchup:
The difficulty in attacking the 49ers’ running game is, which running game will it be? Is it their big, physical, downhill encounter game when they get two tight ends and an extra lineman in there, or is it the read-option that everybody’s talking about with Colin Kaepernick? That’s where the challenge is.
You clearly have to build the box, and you have to get a half-man or a full-man advantage in the box to account for the edges on the read-option and try to outnumber them between the tackles.
How to defend the 49ers’ passing game
The problem with attacking their run game, like we talked about, is that leaves you vulnerable at the second level. You’ve got to put eight people on the line of scrimmage and just show them you are not going to be able to run the ball.
You’ve got to back up with your secondary and don’t give up the big play, which means you’re going to have to live with some completions to (tight ends) Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. But if you commit eight or nine people to the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have one-on-one matchups on the outside.
It’s virtually the same thing as with the 49ers running game when you have to deal with Frank Gore. The first thing you have to do against the Ravens is deal with Ray Rice, because you absolutely cannot let Ray Rice beat you.
That means you have to stack the box to stop the run. Then, if you do that, you have to worry about him coming out of the backfield.
We always used to use the term like, “Who has Ray Rice?” The answer is everybody. Everybody has to have him because you can’t let him leak out.
Of course, you have to worry about Ray Rice, but the bigger thing is you can’t let (receiver) Torrey Smith beat you deep. So again, it’s just like the problem the Ravens are going to have.
The 49ers are going to have to deal with the fact that, if they stop Ray Rice with the right box and back up and not let Torrey Smith beat you, then there are other problems to deal with. You’re going to have (receiver) Anquan Boldin and (tight end) Dennis Pitta catching the medium, 15- to 20-yard passes.
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